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Old 18th December 2017, 01:57 AM   #1
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The woman who can smell parkinson's disease

This is an astonishing tale, see:

Scientists sniff out Parkinson's disease smell - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-42252411

In summary a woman claimed she could detect a unique smell from her husband and other people who had parkinson's disease. Turned out she could, not only that she could tell someone had parkinson's before someone was actually diagnosed by medical professionals. This may lead to a tool to diagnose sufferers earlier.

I've put this in the general skepticism section as I think it provides a text book example of how a genuine but amazing claim can quickly go from extreme skepticism to being accepted. All it takes is a genuine wish for the claim to be checked, a simple but controlled test that proves the claim is right and Bob's your uncle scientists find it very exciting and start using the claim.

Provide evidence, be willing to be tested and scientists will be all over your amazing ability.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:54 AM   #2
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This story destroys in a stroke woo peddlers claims that science is out to get them or that controlled tests are rigged.
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Old 18th December 2017, 03:24 AM   #3
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A peculiar twist is that people suffering from Parkinson have normally lost most of their sense of smell, themselves.

Hans
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Old 18th December 2017, 06:36 AM   #4
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If this came up in the nineties would this have been eligible for the million dollar James Randi prize?
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:13 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
If this came up in the nineties would this have been eligible for the million dollar James Randi prize?
I don't think so, but she could have lied and said that the ghost of a person that had Parkinson's was whispering in her ear about whether or not the person had it and in that case she may have been able to qualify.

If they set the terms and she succeeded then even if they discovered the true non-paranormal cause later they'd be out the money.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:18 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
If this came up in the nineties would this have been eligible for the million dollar James Randi prize?
I don't think so. The MDC was for "supernatural" or "paranormal" abilities.

There's nothing paranormal, IMHO, about the idea that someone with a disease secretes certain pheromones a normal person doesn't. Nor about the idea that this would happen before the disease has been actually diagnosed.

There's nothing paranormal either about the idea that a pheromone can be smelled by some persons but not by others. A well-known case is the smell of urine of someone who just ate asparagus.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:29 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
If this came up in the nineties would this have been eligible for the million dollar James Randi prize?
No.

It would have been akin to this case: http://weekinweird.com/2012/08/07/ex...mes-randi-yes/

A man could tell what a record was by looking at the grooves in the LP. That wasn't supernatural, it was a talent.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
I don't think so. The MDC was for "supernatural" or "paranormal" abilities.

There's nothing paranormal, IMHO, about the idea that someone with a disease secretes certain pheromones a normal person doesn't. Nor about the idea that this would happen before the disease has been actually diagnosed.

There's nothing paranormal either about the idea that a pheromone can be smelled by some persons but not by others. A well-known case is the smell of urine of someone who just ate asparagus.
This is where I get really confused. With sufficient research and time, a repeatable supernatural ability would likely identity some mechanism, right?

This is where we test ghost detection equipment. It isn't legitimate because there is no repeatable test in a lab for ghosts. But a person who passed the challenge would have a repeatable ability, and detection equipment could develop from that.

Last edited by BobTheCoward; 18th December 2017 at 07:37 AM.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:36 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
This is where I get really confused. With sufficient research and time, a repeatable supernatural ability would likely identity some mechanism, right?
Who knows?

But the claim "I can smell X" does not require any supernatural explanation, we know some people (and animals) can smell "better" than others.
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Old 18th December 2017, 07:39 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Who knows?

But the claim "I can smell X" does not require any supernatural explanation, we know some people (and animals) can smell "better" than others.
What about "I can smell ghosts."

Or "I can smell (dowse) pipes underground."

Or, "I can smell when an earthquake will hit."
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:09 AM   #11
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I think it might have been accepted, after all the claim that someone could hear the difference between music streamed over different network cables was, smelling a neurological condition 'sounds' as wacky as VFF seeing missing kidneys, superficially at least.

Of course it's heartening that someone who actually does have an ability that few others share and that can help other people is interested in actually using it to do so rather than making a money out of it. Mrs Milne deserves all our respect and applause for seeing this through.
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:23 AM   #12
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See, where was this lady during the election? Having her smell Hillary Clinton somewhere in the thick of things could have put a good deal of arguing to rest.
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:30 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by isissxn View Post
See, where was this lady during the election? Having her smell Hillary Clinton somewhere in the thick of things could have put a good deal of arguing to rest.

There could still be a role for her, if she's willing to make the trip to DC.
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:45 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
What about "I can smell ghosts."

Or "I can smell (dowse) pipes underground."

Or, "I can smell when an earthquake will hit."
What about what?
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:46 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
What about what?
When is it a claim of the supernatural and when is it not?
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Old 18th December 2017, 10:50 AM   #16
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Wow, interesting discovery!
So, how long before they've either found the cause of the odor, or trained dogs to sniff out Parkinson's?
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Old 18th December 2017, 11:52 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
Wow, interesting discovery!
So, how long before they've either found the cause of the odor, or trained dogs to sniff out Parkinson's?
It seems that they've identified a chemical on the skin. It sounds like a simple swab test might be a possibility.
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Old 18th December 2017, 12:01 PM   #18
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I've heard you it's possible to diagnose Crohn's disease by smell.
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Old 18th December 2017, 12:11 PM   #19
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As an aside, the test she used to demonstrate the ability sounds like a perfect example of how, when a person actually has the ability they claim, a test can be simple and conclusive. Not only did she do what she claimed she scored 7 out of 6 (one of the control group was diagnosed after the test).

12 people, 6 with Parkinsons, 6 control, wore t shirts that she then smelled and used to identify who was and who wasn't a sufferer. Relatively simple to organise, easy to blind and gave a clear result. Whoever designed the test deserves credit for it.
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Old 18th December 2017, 12:26 PM   #20
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If a woman can diagnose Parkinson's by smell, then how quickly could we train up some springer spaniels? Seriously so much better at smelling than us, training a few pooches could be an awful lot quicker and cheaper than developing a skin swab.

Is there any advantage in detecting Parkinson's early? As I understand it there aren't any drugs anyway, so finding out earlier doesn't seem to give either patient or doctor any great advantage.
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Old 18th December 2017, 01:07 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
If this came up in the nineties would this have been eligible for the million dollar James Randi prize?
I think not. After all, there is no supernatural claim. They claim that Parkinson patients have a particular smell. A perfectly material and testable claim.

Hans
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Old 18th December 2017, 01:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
This is where I get really confused. With sufficient research and time, a repeatable supernatural ability would likely identity some mechanism, right?
Well, the rules did encompass that. If a claim was deemed supernatural at the time of taking the challenge it would be eligible, even if a natural explanation might subsequently be discovered.

After all: "Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic" (A. C. Clarke slightly paraphrased)

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Old 18th December 2017, 01:13 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
I think not. After all, there is no supernatural claim. They claim that Parkinson patients have a particular smell. A perfectly material and testable claim.

Hans
Dowsing operates under the idea that there is an emanation from water that can be detected on the surface. Is that supernatural?
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Old 18th December 2017, 01:31 PM   #24
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It would be, but it's been tested and doesn't work.
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Old 18th December 2017, 01:49 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Dowsing operates under the idea that there is an emanation from water that can be detected on the surface. Is that supernatural?
It is because that emanation does not exist. The claim as such is falsifiable and can be subjected to an objective test. It has been, and failed.

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Old 18th December 2017, 02:18 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Dowsing operates under the idea that there is an emanation from water that can be detected on the surface. Is that supernatural?
No, it's bollocks. We know it's bollocks, because it's been tested. No such emanation exists.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:21 PM   #27
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Another contrarian derail into rules lawyering?

Let's just talk bout the discovery instead of a game of gotcha about what the exact definition of supernatural is.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:35 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by MRC_Hans View Post
It is because that emanation does not exist. The claim as such is falsifiable and can be subjected to an objective test. It has been, and failed.

Hans
But before the Parkinson's smell test was at one point only a claim. If someone had come forth claiming dowsing worked, it would have been a candidate for the prize. If it succeeded, we would most likely be able to identify what those emanations are with continued testing.

So before the tests are conducted in either scenario, how do we split non supernatural from supernatural?
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:36 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Porpoise of Life View Post
Another contrarian derail into rules lawyering?

Let's just talk bout the discovery instead of a game of gotcha about what the exact definition of supernatural is.
There is no contrarianism here. No one is arguing that it is supernatural or that supernatural things are not.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:37 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But before the Parkinson's smell test was at one point only a claim. If someone had come forth claiming dowsing worked, it would have been a candidate for the prize. If it succeeded, we would most likely be able to identify what those emanations are with continued testing.

So before the tests are conducted in either scenario, how do we split non supernatural from supernatural?
We don't.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:38 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
We don't.
But we do if a prize for supernatural includes dowsing but not smelling Parkinson's.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:39 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Dowsing operates under the idea that there is an emanation from water that can be detected on the surface. Is that supernatural?
No it doesn't.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:39 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But we do if a prize for supernatural includes dowsing but not smelling Parkinson's.
No we don't.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:42 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
No we don't.
Were both eligible for the prize? Was neither? Was one but not the other?
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:45 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
No it doesn't.
I just looked up some claims by dowsers that there is an energy. That would be an emanation.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:46 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
Were both eligible for the prize? Was neither? Was one but not the other?
The challenge was ended some years back so we can never know.
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:50 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
The challenge was ended some years back so we can never know.
If you were administering your own three years ago, what would you do?
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Old 18th December 2017, 02:52 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
If a woman can diagnose Parkinson's by smell, then how quickly could we train up some springer spaniels? Seriously so much better at smelling than us, training a few pooches could be an awful lot quicker and cheaper than developing a skin swab.
Any doctor's surgery in the country can take a skin swab and get a result immediately or in a couple of days depending on how complicated the test is (a simple reagent with a long life kept on site incase it's needed or posting to a lab). Compare this to training up springers and then keeping them, with kennelling, food exercise, vet costs etc etc....

Originally Posted by MikeG View Post
Is there any advantage in detecting Parkinson's early? As I understand it there aren't any drugs anyway, so finding out earlier doesn't seem to give either patient or doctor any great advantage.
So far, there was a very promising breakthrough announced a couple of days ago for Huntingdon's which may have implications for Altheimer's and Parkinson's, it's a treatment rather than a cure so early diagnosis allowing the treatment to start before deterioration was noticeable would be hugely advantageous.
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Old 18th December 2017, 03:05 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
But before the Parkinson's smell test was at one point only a claim. If someone had come forth claiming dowsing worked, it would have been a candidate for the prize. If it succeeded, we would most likely be able to identify what those emanations are with continued testing.

So before the tests are conducted in either scenario, how do we split non supernatural from supernatural?
Dowsing was considered a legitimate claim.

Smelling Parkinson was not presented.

The distinction was up to the prize management.

Hans
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Old 18th December 2017, 03:09 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by BobTheCoward View Post
When is it a claim of the supernatural and when is it not?
Good question. What do you think? Don't equivocate!
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